A dinner with Pierre Franey to celebrate spring foods
When plans are made ahead for a spring dinner of shad and shad roe, it is a special but risky venture.
This elusive fish, known mostly for its roe, is available in Florida in early February,then it travels northward up through the rivers of Georgia, the Carolinas, the Chesapeake and the Delaware, usually arriving in New England in early spring.
Spring came late this year, however, and cold water meant shad was not available for a recent Boston dinner planned with a cooking demonstration of shad and shad roe as the starring attraction.
But master chef Pierre Franey has coped with last minute changes many times before and this night he triumphed easily using similiar preparation techniques with fresh haddock instead of shad and the rosy, transluscent fresh roe of flounder.
The event was a dress rehearsal for the cooking demonstration Franey will give on Wednesday, May 5, to benefit the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Mass., co-sponsored by The Women's Culinary Guild.
The rehearsal stage was the home kitchen of Lucien and Ann Robert, owners of the Maison Robert restaurant in Boston.
A handsome man with silver hair and eyebrows contrastingly dark, Franey looks more like a tennis player than a man who spends most of his waking hours with food.
His cooking is calm and unhurried and he agreeably explained techniques and methods as he cleaned and filletted the fresh haddock, pureed the flounder and combined cream, eggs, and seasonings.
Franey's knowledge of French techniques is so complete as to be second nature and his cooking is often improvisation on classic themes - using available fresh vegetables and fish from local waters.
This dish, whether made with shad, haddock or sea bass, is put together with a fish mousse of lively flavor, cradling the roe in its center, the whole boxed in by enormous fish fillets and baked to a perfect tender moistness.
The sauce is light with a pleasant conflict of piquancy and richness, a reduction of wine vinegar and cream. Carrots and cucumbers in oval shapes accompanied the dish.
The menu was rounded out with a handsome appetizer and dessert orchestrated by the Women's Culinary Guild members and hosts Ann and Lucien Robert.
First was a colorful Terrine des Legumes Olympe, with vegetables carefully arranged in a ham forcemeat to make a colorful mosaic pattern when sliced.
It was served with its refreshing sauce of uncooked tomato and each slice of terrine was garnished with brilliant green beans no thicker than a twig.
Ann Robert's dessert was Tulip Tuiles au Praline, an astonishing creation of praline ice cream in ruffled almond pastry shells.
To prepare the Tulip Tuiles, the cooky pastry is baked in a circle then draped over an upturned, tall glass to relax downward in attractive billows becoming crisp as it cools.
Placed upright on a dessert plate, it is an edible and attractive container for the ice cream.
Franey's long association with Craig Claiborne, food editor of the New York Times has resulted in a weekly Times column and the cookbooks, ''60-Minute Gourmet'' and ''More 60-Minute Gourmet'' (Times Books). He also co-authors articles for the Sunday Times with Claiborne and writes a column on kitchen equipment which is the subject of another book to be published in the fall.
Franey came to the United States in 1938, working at the World's Fair French Pavillion. He later was head chef of the famous Le Pavillon restaurant in New York City before he became executive chef for Howard Johnson's.
Here is Pierre Franey's recipe for fresh fish stuffed with fish mousse and roe. Baked Striped Bass Stuffed With Fish Mousse and Shad Roe Fish Mousse: 1 1/2 pounds lemon sole fillets, skinned 1 egg 1 cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon chopped chives 1 teaspoon finely chopped tarragon Freshly grated nutmeg Cayenne Salt and pepper 1 hard-boiled egg, finely chopped 1 4 1/2 to 5 pound striped bass, filleted with the skin left on 2 pair shad roe 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot 4 tablespoons unsalted butter Salt and pepper 1 1/2 cups fish stock
Salt bass fillets lightly and set aside. To prepare fish mousse, cut sole in pieces and place in food processor with raw egg, cream, chives, tarragon, a little freshly grated nutmeg, a pinch of cayenne and salt and pepper to taste. Puree. Transfer mousse to a bowl and fold in chopped egg. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary.
Place one bass fillet on a flat surface, skin side down, and spread with half the mousse down the center, leaving a border along each long side about 2 inches wide.
Arrange roe evenly down the center of the mousse and cover with remaining mousse.
Position remaining bass fillet on mousse, skin side up, with the head end over the tail of the bottom fillet.
Press unstuffed edges of the bottom fish up to cover as much of the mousse as possible, and bring top fillet down, creating a box of fish around the filling.
Tie firmly in four or five evenly spaced sections with kitchen string.
Strew chopped shallots in the bottom of a shallow baking dish just large enough to receive the bass and dot with 2 tablespoons of butter.
Transfer fish carefully to the dish, top with the remaining butter, and pour fish stock around the fish.
Bake in a 375 degree F. oven 45 minutes until filling is just firm, basting every 10 minutes. Cut crosswise into 8 servings, place each on a warm dish and nap with cream sauce. Cream Sauce for Baked Fish 1 tablespoon minced shallot 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar 1 cup heavy cream Salt and freshly ground pepper 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a small saucepan, combine shallot and wine vinegar and boil briskly until it has reduced to about 2 tablespoons.
Add heavy cream, bring to a boil, and continue to simmer until it has reduced to half its original volume. Watch closely towards the end to make sure thickened cream doesn't scorch.
Salt and pepper to taste, cool slightly, transfer to blender and blend 30 seconds. Return to saucepan and reheat, swirling in butter. Makes about 3/4 cup sauce.